I read a lot of rave reviews before reading This is Not a Test, so my expectations were very high at the outset. It didn't live up to all of my expectations, but it's a formidable novel. It centers around the 6 teens holed up in the high school and how they interact day after day. Each of the teens comes from a different background and they all bring different baggage. Their melodramas and conflicts are the center of the novel, not the zombies. Like many of the zombie stories I like, the humans can sometimes be more dangerous than the zombies. The characters are at first shell shocked and still reeling over the events leading up to their meeting: family members dying, chaos in the streets, cannibalistic living corpses, and the rest of the trappings of the zombie apocalypse. Then they start to argue, tempers run high, factions start to form, and new relationships are made.
I generally liked Sloane and felt her background gave the book a sense of realism and a glimpse into how abuse can effect someone. Some readers complain that she whines a lot and holds on to the past, but she is a victim of long term and violent abuse that obviously have long term psychological problems that can't really be dealt with in her current situation. She experienced not only the abuse of her father, but also her sister, who told her over and over not to tell anyone about their father's abuse using threat of being separated to scare her. She also told Sloane never to have any other friends or boyfriends, leading their relationship to be incredibly one sided (as she could have other people in her life) and codependent. After her sister left, Sloane was lost and literally had nothing to live for and no one to turn to. I'm sure the whole world falling apart didn't help either.
Although I greatly enjoyed most of the characters and Summers' writing style, there were annoying flaws. I hated that this zombie novel barely had any zombies in it at all. They were present through the first part of the book, banging on doors and trying to get in, but they went away when a gas station exploded. Then they never came back. I liked that they were at least an ominous presence, but then they were just absent. Then some of the characters were insufferably annoying and I kind of wish they were made zombie food. They held on to their little petty conflicts and moaned and whined over the dumbest things. Ugh. This aspect was the worst for me and I kept waiting for those characters to get better and unfortunately they never did.
This is Not a Test has a great flow and some good characters. If you're looking for zombies, you won't really find them here beyond a few scenes. However, if you like claustrophobic stories about where people are thrown together and become much different after society collapses, then this is the book for you.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins
Giveaway!!! I have one ARC copy of This is Not a Test. Just leave a comment below with your thoughts on this read and a way to contact you. Open internationally until midnight, October 15, 2012. Good luck!